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Scientists follow the fire

Hector Mata / AP
Smoke sweeps over Southern California's Mount Wilson Observatory.


Wildfires in California are always a cause for alarm, but the raging Station Fire is particularly alarming for researchers and science fans because it has endangered some of Southern California's astronomical crown jewels, including historic Mount Wilson Observatory and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Even though the worst seems to be over for JPL, only mission-critical employees are at work today, due to concerns about air quality. That means Mars rover operations have been suspended for the day. "The rovers understand," project manager John Callas was quoted as saying.

The outlook is worse for Mount Wilson. Gaggles of science geeks are anxiously monitoring the firefight through Web sites, webcams and Twitter updates. Here are a few of the resources to check - and feel free to add to the list by leaving a comment:

Twitter updates:

  • @NASAJPL: JPL's official Twitter account.
  • @jhjones: Jane Houston Jones, astronomer involved with Cassini mission outreach at JPL.
  • @elakdawalla: Emily Lakdawalla, planetary geologist who blogs for the Planetary Society.
  • @plutokiller: Mike Brown, Caltech astronomer and dwarf-planet discoverer.
  • #station: Umbrella search term for Station Fire updates.

Web sites and webcams: